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Is it bad to exercise right after eating?

When it comes to exercise and fitness, there are many training tactics and tips across dozens of platforms. You will often run into conflicting advice from athletes, trainers, and nutritionists. The best way to verify your ideal course of action is to isolate your personal goals, as that will determine which methods will get you where you are trying to go.

In regard to eating directly before exercise, you must consider what type of food, how much food, and what you are aiming to accomplish. As a general rule, it is never a great idea to exercise right after indulging in a large, sumptuous meal. Wait before exercising post-meal. However, food is fuel, and in some circumstances there may be benefits to such a practice. Let’s take a look at when it would be advisable to snack before sweating.

Man and woman eating at a gym
Mladen Zivkovic/

Will eating before exercise impact weight-loss goals?

If you are trying to shave off some weight, exercise after eating comes with rules. Food, especially carbohydrates, supply your body with something called glycogen, which is essentially energy. You’ll want that little boost when exerting yourself. However, timing is everything.

If weight loss is the objective, don’t eat a meal more than three to four hours before your workout. Too soon before exercise and you may be the recipient of some unpleasant cramping or bloating. But, a small snack or bar perhaps 30 minutes or an hour before your workout will not feel quite so heavy while moving your body.

What are the best foods to eat before working out?

The best food to eat right before a workout are items rich in protein. Again, give your body some time to start processing any snacks. That being said, a protein shake or smoothie is a great, tasty choice. You can add in nuts, seeds, or fruit to enhance the taste. Oatmeal is also a great option and can be customized a number of ways. Scrambled eggs and vegetables, chicken thighs, or rice make for heartier options; all are dense with minerals and yes, more protein.

The reason protein is good is because it helps build up fibers and tissues in the body, improving muscle growth and repair. If you want something a little lighter, try a simple piece of wheat toast topped with peanut butter or banana slices. One of the most vital components is hydration. It is ideal to drink half of your body weight in ounces on a daily basis. This will help you digest more effectively and flush out toxins faster.

When is it better to not eat before exercise?

There are a few circumstances in which you’ll want to tone down the pre-workout snacks. If your workouts are cardio heavy, such as dancing or long-distance running, a meal flopping around in your stomach may not feel the best. If the food you’ve eaten is rich in dairy or fried ingredients, exercise may induce nausea or early fatigue. In these types of situations, wait to be active. However, for the most part, eating before exercising can improve energy and internal repair when done at the right intervals and with the right nutrition.

So, is it bad to exercise after eating?

Woman eating apple at an outdoor track
Dragana Gordic/

The verdict is out, and we now know that it will not ruin your workout. However, adhering to certain parameters is a good idea. Opt for lighter, protein rich snacks instead of full, fatty meals. Give yourself a little time to start digesting, and start your workout a couple hours after eating. If you are aiming for weight loss as a primary focus, make sure you are utilizing proper portion control and more wholesome quality.

Food gives you energy for your workouts, and is integral in the repair and growth of your muscles. In addition, you can teach your body over time to burn fat instead of muscle by staggering the timing in which you eat between workouts. If you’re unsure exactly what the best regimen looks like for you, that is OK. Everybody is different. The most effective thing to do is consult with a physician or nutritionist regarding your goals. They will be able to point you toward a constructive meal plan and manageable exercises.

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